Introduction

What is the Book of Amos About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read Amos!

Videos

Historical Context

Amos was from Tekoa, a small town about 12 miles south of Jerusalem. He “was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14 NIV). He was not a priest or a member of the prophet’s school. He was a sheepherder and took care of sycamore-fig trees. He must have been educated, for his book shows literary skill. … In Amos, we find one of many instances in the Bible of God calling a man when he was in the middle of doing his daily job (see Amos 1:1). Amos was just an ordinary working man. But God called him and sent him on his way, shepherd’s crook in hand, to gather God’s straying people.  

—Henrietta Mears  

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

So Amos, uniquely among some of the prophets, isn’t one by birth, by heritage, or by pedigree. God plucks him out of nowhere and baptizes him for this particular ministry to this people. And that will get picked up throughout the letter because Amos is uniquely concerned with agricultural imagery—the types of things he picks up on are kind of unique to the fact that he’s a farmer. You have this injustice that’s happening between the rich of Israel and the poor of Israel, and so Amos, as a farmer, is not among the privileged. He is being brought up from the humble to shame the strong and the rich.

—Spoken Gospel

Source: David Bowden and Seth Stewart in the Spoken Gospel podcast, “Amos: A Social Gospel?” published at spokengospel.com.

From Bibles.net: Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Amos for your good and to lead you into joy.

Amos was from Tekoa, a small village 10 miles South of Jerusalem. He was the only prophet to give his occupation before declaring his divine commission. He was not of priestly or noble descent, but worked as a “sheepbreeder” (Amos 1:1 NKJV; cf. 2 Kings 3:4) and a “tender of sycamore fruit” (Amos 7:14 NKJV) and was a contemporary of Jonah (2 Kings 14:25), Hosea (Hosea 1:1), and Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1). The date of writing is mid-eighth century BC, during the reigns of Uzziah, king of Judah (ca. 790–739 BC) and Jeroboam II, king of Israel (ca. 793–753 BC), two years before a memorable earthquake (Amos 1:1; cf. Zechariah 14:5, ca. 760 BC). 

—John MacArthur 

Source: Copyright 2023, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This Grace to You article originally appeared here at gty.org

Amos prophesied at a unique time in the history of the divided kingdom. From approximately 780 to 750, Egypt, Syria, and Assyria did not pose a serious threat to Israel. During this time, Jeroboam II was able to expand the borders of Israel, and his successes created economic prosperity for many and a sense of security as well. During these years, Israel prospered, and a powerful and wealthy upper class emerged who exploited the poor and perverted justice. 

—Keith Mathison 

Source: Top 5 Commentaries on the Book of Amos by Keith Mathison. © Ligonier Ministries 2023. Used by permission of Ligonier Ministries. All rights reserved.

Where Amos preached and when Amos preached are also really important because he was in what’s called “Israel’s Silver Age” under Jeroboam II. … He’s a shepherd from Tekoa, which is right on the border [of northern and southern Israel], so more than likely he was based in Judah, which is the southern kingdom, and his sheep would wander across the border and he was observing both places over the course of his time as a shepherd. So he’s [living] in the faithful half of Israel, or the more faithful half of Israel, in the south, but he’s seen the decadence of the north and has enough proximity to it to know how to speak against it. And he spends most of his time indicting the north. The northern kingdom, if you remember from [the book of] Kings, is the kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel that don’t have Jerusalem or the temple. And instead, the first Jeroboam set up idols and a new place of worship—golden calves even—that ended up defining them as a nation apostate from God.

—Spoken Gospel

Source: David Bowden and Seth Stewart in the Spoken Gospel podcast, “Amos: A Social Gospel?” published at spokengospel.com.

The Near East at the Time of Amos

c. 750 BC

Amos likely prophesied to Israel during the decades just before the fall of Samaria to the Assyrian Empire. The resurgence of this ancient empire dominated much of the politics of the ancient Near East from the time of Jeroboam until the end of the seventh century BC. Assyria would eventually engulf nearly the entire Near East, from Ur to Ararat to Egypt. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Books
Message Series

The God Who Roars by Hugh Palmer

These five brief, 30-minute messages on the book of Amos, given by Pastor Hugh Palmer, help us to hear the strong and merciful call of our God to return to him. Through these messages you will be challenged and changed as the Holy Spirit reveals God’s character to you through the book of Amos.

Amos Dictionary

As you read through Amos, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

A place where sacrifices were made to worship God. An altar could be a pile of dirt or stones, or a raised platform of wood, marble, metal, or other materials. The bronze or brazen altar was used for burnt offerings in the tabernacle’s courtyard. It was a large box, eight feet square and four-and-a-half feet high, made of wood covered with bronze. A much larger altar replaced it when Solomon built the temple. The altar of incense (also called the golden altar) was smaller, covered with gold, and placed just in front of the veil to the Holy of Holies. Every day, both morning and evening, incense was burned here, symbolizing the prayers of the people.

Descendants of Ben-Ammi, grandson of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. They lived east of the Dead Sea and were nomadic, idolatrous, and vicious. The Ammonites often opposed Israel.

Descendants of Canaan, a son of Ham and grandson of Noah. Because of their wickedness, God told Abraham of future destruction he would bring. This punishment occurred under Moses and Joshua, and their land was given to the tribe of Reuben.

A son of Shem, grandson of Noah. The name is sometimes applied to all the land and people of the Fertile Crescent but usually is focused on the region that became known as Syria. The Arameans were a Semitic people, and their history often intersects that of the Hebrews.

The site, located a few miles directly north of Jerusalem, where God confirmed to Jacob the covenant He had made with Abraham. Jacob named the place Bethel, meaning “House of God.” It figures prominently in many biblical events, and for a time the ark of the covenant was kept there. After the division of Israel from Judah, Jeroboam made Bethel one of two centers of idolatrous worship, which continued until Josiah’s reforms.

Someone who has been made to leave his or her country and live somewhere else. The Jews were exiles in Babylon for 70 years.

The region of Israel west of the Jordan River.

A town near Jericho; site of the Israelites’ first camp after crossing the Jordan River. Gilgal was the site of Saul’s confirmation as king and the place where he disobeyed Samuel’s instructions, resulting in his being rejected by God as king.

The most important city of Bible times. Jerusalem was the capital of the united kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. The temple was built in Jerusalem, so many people traveled to the city to worship God. In 587 BC, Jerusalem was captured and mostly destroyed by Babylonian armies. The city was rebuilt when the Jews returned after 70 years of exile in Babylon. Jesus taught in the city of Jerusalem, was crucified outside the city wall, was buried near the city, and then rose again. The first Christian church began in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit came to the believers there.

(1) One of the sons of Jacob and Leah. (2) The descendants of Jacob and Leah’s son of the same name, who became the tribe of Judah. (3) The southern kingdom when the Israelites divided into two separate countries after the death of King Solomon. (The northern kingdom was called Israel.)

That which is right and fair. Most of the prophets in the Bible emphasized that God is just and that he wants his people to act justly. Many of the prophets’ warnings were given because the leaders and people were guilty of injustice (such as cheating others, especially the poor).

A Hebrew person who promised to serve God in a special way for a certain length of time (anywhere from thirty days to a lifetime). To show dedication to God, a Nazirite would not cut his or her hair, eat or drink anything made from grapes, or touch a dead body. At the end of the time, the person lived like other people. Samuel and Samson were Nazirites all their lives. Some scholars believe that John the Baptist was also a Nazirite.

A gift of money, time, or other possessions given to God by a person who loves him. In Old Testament times, people brought food and animals to the tabernacle or temple as offerings to God. The offerings were often burned on the altar. Animal offerings were always killed. Their blood symbolized sins being forgiven by death. Christians believe that offering sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins is no longer necessary because Jesus’ death was the once-for-all sacrifice through which our sins can be forgiven.

The people of Philistia, a region along the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. During most of Old Testament history, the Philistines were major competitors with Israel for territory and power. The Philistines, whose origins may be traced to Crete or Greece, were far ahead of the Hebrews in technology, having mastered skills in working with metal. They adopted at least some of the Canaanite gods and often controlled much of ancient Israel, until a series of decisive defeats at the hand of David. Still, battles with Judah and Israel continued for centuries.

Men and women in the Old and New Testaments chosen by God to tell his messages to people. Also refers to the seventeen Old Testament books written by prophets.

A small part that is left. In the Old Testament, remnant usually refers to the few Israelite people who remained faithful worshipers of God after their exile in Babylon.

Thinking and doing what is correct (or right) and holy. God is righteous because he does only what is perfect and holy. A person who has accepted Jesus as Savior is looked at by God as being free from the guilt of sin, so God sees that person as being righteous. People who are members of God’s family show their love for him by doing what is correct and holy, living in righteous ways.

A person who takes care of sheep. Shepherds find grass and water for their sheep, protect them from bad weather and wild animals, bring them safely into a sheepfold (or some other sheltered area) at night, and care for sick or hurt sheep.

Having authority and power over everything. God is sovereign.

(1) One of the hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built (Mount Zion). (2) The entire city of Jerusalem. (3) Another name for the nation of Israel. (4) Another name for heaven.

What the Bible Is All About NIV Henrietta Mears

Dictionary Source

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?

Insights

The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of Amos.

It’s a stylistic trick used by Amos to divide his book into its main parts by returning at the end to some thought to which he gave prominence at the beginning. The first part is bracketed between two references to the roaring lion (Amos 1:2; 3:8). Each of the subsections (apart from Amos 3:3-8) may be taken as a separate roar: the divine lion first denounces the sins of the Gentile world (Amos 1:3-2: 3) and then of the Israelite world, addressing first the southern kingdom of Judah (Amos 2:4, 5), Amos’s own home, then the northern kingdom of Israel (Amos 2:6-16), the people to whom he was sent, and ending by binding them together in a concluding oracle (Amos 3:1, 2). The lion metaphor, of course, speaks of judgment and the series of oracles serves to show at point after point the things which come under divine displeasure. Nevertheless, at this point the judgment is still a future threat, and in the subtlest possible way Amos blends the roar of the lion at the end into the voice of the prophet (Amos 3:8), his own voice calling out in God’s name to the people to heed before it is too late.

—J. A. Motyer 

Source: Motyer, J.A. The Message of Amos. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1984.

Chapters 1 and 2 are Amos’s judgments against all of the nations, and Israel in particular, in their most condensed form. And then [chapters] 3-6 are, functionally, all the ways Israel has broken God’s covenant, and the promise and prophecy of a coming exile that will come at the hands of the Assyrians depending on when you date it, sometime in the future. And that actually happens. And then the last section is [chapters] 7-9, and it’s kind of more of the same in the sense that it’s a promise of coming destruction, but what’s unique about the last section is not only the ending, but what Amos does—it’s a series of visions. 

The plumbline is probably the most famous image from Amos and that comes at the very end in a series of five visions. And at the very last paragraph you get this message of good news, that’s coming from the line of David. 

But that’s the three sections: 1) the CliffsNotes of judgment, 2) you have the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel and the promise of exile, 3) and then his visions and the promise of restoration by the hand of King David.

—Spoken Gospel

Source: David Bowden and Seth Stewart in the Spoken Gospel podcast, “Amos: A Social Gospel?” published at spokengospel.com.

As Amos perceived the character of his God, he saw that the lion-roar of condemnation and judgment came only when the patience of mercy had long, but vainly, waited for repentance and amendment of life. This is the significance of the repeated phrase for three transgressions…and for four.[1] On the part of man, the cup of sinfulness has been filled to the brim; on the part of God, there has been no hasty action: the first transgression well merited divine wrath, but mercy waited and patience watched. One way of expressing this truth about God is to say that he never punishes the sinner except after prolonged personal observation and ample opportunity for repentance.[2] Another way of stating the same truth is to say that the face which God turns to the world is predominantly one of mercy, that wrath comes, when it comes at all, late and overdue, and, as the Bible permits us to say, accompanied by the tears of God over recalcitrant and impenitent sinners (cf. Luke 19:41, 42). The God of Amos is a God of patient moral providence.

[1] Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6; cf. Job 33:14; Psalm 62:11; Proverbs 30:15, 18, 21; Hosea 6:2; Micah 5:5. Throughout, the idea behind the ascending numeral is that a complete count has been taken, and the result may be accepted with confidence.

[2] Cf. Genesis 6:5, 6; 11:5; 18:20, 21; Psalm 50:21; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Isaiah 30:18; 57:11; Luke 13:6-9; 20:9-13; Acts 17:30, 31; 2 Peter 3:8, 9, 15; Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19, etc.

—J. A. Motyer

Source: Motyer, J.A. The Message of Amos. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1984.

Christians often quote Amos for its emphasis on social justice, and rightly so. Yet we must learn to handle this emphasis properly. Amos’s condemnation of Israel’s life of luxury and laziness at the expense of the poor should not be treated in a way that reduces the heart of Christianity merely to social ethics. The heart of Christianity is the gospel. 

The necessary societal implications of the gospel must not be confused with the gospel itself. Both are crucial; our challenge is to understand how mercy is integral to the Christian’s identity without reducing the entirety of the Christian message to doing acts of mercy. To see the gospel as a call merely to extend mercy to others without rooting this in the gospel’s call to receive God’s mercy toward us as sinners is to lose the gospel itself.

—David R. Helm

Source: Content adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. This article first appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission.

From Bibles.net: What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news about Jesus, who he is and what he did for us through his death and resurrection. We have created a resource page to help you learn about the gospel.

Although these oracles condemn nations for their treatment of other nations and peoples, the moral principles upon which they are judged easily translate to us today. Consider the following specific judgments and reflect on your own life and temptation toward similar practices.

Damascus. The sin of Damascus seems to be its trampling upon the people of Gilead, treating them as nothing more than a pile of grain. How have you treated people as less than human? How have you trampled upon others?

Tyre. The sin of Tyre includes their failure to keep their word; they did not keep the promises they made to the nation of Edom. How have you failed to keep your word, your commitments, or your obligations? What promises have you broken?

Edom. Note the end of Amos 1:11. Edom is judged for the nation’s perpetual anger. How does anger manifest itself in your life? Where are you slow to forgive? How are you holding onto hurts against you? How are you growing bitterness in your heart?

Ammon. The nation of Ammon was so violent and vicious that they even “ripped open pregnant women” (Amos 1:13 NIV). How has violence taken root in your heart? Where do you revel in it? How has the violence in the world around you, in the media, or in entertainment developed a love of violence in you?

—Kristofer D. Holroyd

Source: Content taken from Joel, Amos, and Obadiah: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Kristofer D. Holroyd. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Whether it was incorporating the idols and pagan practices of the nations around them, taking advantage of the weak and impoverished and believing such practice was not inconsistent with the worship, or simply using worship as an attempt to manipulate God, the Israelites consistently abused, misused, and polluted the worship of God. New Testament believers are tempted in many of the same ways, including lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1–11) and showing favoritism to the wealthy (James 2:1–7). Indeed, the book of 1 Corinthians was written, in large part, to address abuses of the Christian worship service by God’s people in Corinth. When we see such abuses, our hearts should be stirred up with longing for the day when God’s people worship him perfectly in spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24).

. . .

Those who have heard the Word of God, that is, his law and his good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, are held to an even higher standard of accountability. Not only do they have the general knowledge of God from creation; they also have benefited by hearing directly from him through his Word about who he is and what he requires of humanity. Therefore, those who hear the Word of God and reject it are in danger of even greater judgment. 

—Kristofer D. Holroyd

Source: Content taken from Joel, Amos, and Obadiah: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Kristofer D. Holroyd. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Past history cannot take the place of present spiritual and moral commitment. A stale testimony of what happened years ago is like a lesson in history. God looks for up-to-date commitment to himself (Amos 5:6), to moral values (Amos 5:14, 15), to personal and social ethics (Amos 5:24).

—J. A. Motyer

Source: Motyer, J.A. The Message of Amos. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1984.

“Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4 NIV) he says. Seek God, not religion. … “Seek good, not evil, that you may live” (Amos 5:14 NIV). Isn’t it a strikingly powerful way of preaching true repentance to put these two texts alongside each other? 1) Seek the Lord and live. 2) Seek good and live. It guards us against both of the two obvious traps that people keep falling into when they play at repentance. Those of us who are godless repent by trying to do good without seeking God. Those of us who are religious repent by trying to turn to God without turning to good. And Amos will not have it! “Seek the Lord!” he cries; “Seek good,” he demands, “not evil, that you may live.” The quarrel Amos has with his generation is not their churchgoing statistics; it is what went on with the rest of the week. … When God says, “Seek good and not evil,” what is it that comes to your mind? Where does God’s Spirit prick your conscience? A relationship? A business deal? A way we have been talking and speaking to others? An attitude? A way we’ve been acting? Whatever it is, there’s no good hiding behind my religion at that point. It won’t blind God to what I am actually doing.

—Hugh Palmer

Source: Hugh Palmer, quoted from his message, “Seek Me and Live,” from his series The God Who Roars on the book of Amos, preached at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate on April 26, 1994.

The best advice I can give to everyone out there—those who are feeling complacent and apathetic all the way to those who are feeling guilty—the best thing I can say to you is the path toward more justice in your life, the path to getting more righteousness in your life, and more care for the poor in your life, is not forcing more social programs into your life and like “making yourself do it because you have to.” The path to embedding generosity into your life is to meditate on the generosity that’s been given to you through Jesus. … The more we meditate on what Jesus has done for us by lavishing his generosity on us in his incarnation, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his new creation, the more we will be marked by generosity and want to live that out and can’t help but live it out. Jesus has saved us; how can we not, then, love others?

—Spoken Gospel

Source: David Bowden and Seth Stewart in the Spoken Gospel podcast, “Amos: A Social Gospel?” published at spokengospel.com.

Amos Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of Amos.

So Many Books...
by Michael Card | 70s 80s 90s
River
by Audrey Assad feat. Propaganda | Pop and Rap
Known By Love
by Chris McClarney | Folk Country
God Would You Forgive Us
by Here Be Lions and Dustin Smith | Praise & Worship
Not In Me
by Sovereign Grace Music and Bob Kauflin | Hymn
The Pleiades and Orion
by John Michael Talbot | Chill & Relaxing
Let It Be Real
by Watermark Music and Shane & Shane | Praise & Worship
Heart of Worship
by Seacoast Music and Brandon Lake | Praise & Worship
Return to You
by Gas Street Music feat. Luke Hellebronth | Praise & Worship
Pharisee In Me
by TEMITOPE | Chill & Relaxing
More Songs